Category Archives: Jiu-Jitsu

Wrist-Lock Out of Nowhere

The nefarious wrist-lock, a submission so dastardly that its mere utterance elicits headshakes and tuts from respectable members of the jiu-jitsu community.

So the question then is, what is one to do after being wrist-locked with extreme brutality?  Does one seclude oneself from the rest of humanity to revel in desolation? Or internalise the anger until it manifests itself in genocidal rage?

After pondering this for some time, I concluded the correct recourse was to learn from the dude that had inflicted the shame upon me.

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Originally from Rio, Wilson trained at Cia. Amazonense de Jiu-Jitsu, in Manaus. The academy owned by third degree black belt, Rigoney Castro Costa Jr.

The Monday following the Manaus Open, the academy was not due to open; it was another of Brazil’s ever-occuring national holidays. However, Mestre Costa sympathetic to my plight agreed to open up.

Following 5×8 minute rounds, where the jungle humidity had led me to empty bucketloads of sweat out onto the mats, we got down to business. I was given a step-by-step account on how I’d been caught.

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Wilson played knee-shield half guard, with his knee under my chin, this had lured me into an attempt to smash both legs to the mat, grabbing at his lapel in the process. As soon as I’d took the bait, he’d immediately cupped behind my elbow with boths hands and curled himself up like a hedgehog, forcing my trapped wrist back at a tendon-tearing obtuse angle.

He was meticulous with his detail, keen that I picked up all the nuances of the setup and the finish. I was instructed to drill it over and over again until he was satisfied with my understanding.

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I shall forever be indebted to my new friend, Wilson for his willingness to share this forbidden knowledge. It is now my aim to unleash this devastating and self-esteem shattering finish upon everyone that I roll with.

A Tale of Two Cities

Curitiba

Leaving for a weekend in the southern city of Curitiba to compete at the IBJJF Open, I made my packing decisions based on the fact it was Brazil, painfully oblivious to the multiple climates that exist in a country this size. In addition to my kimono, I equipped myself with nothing heavier than t-shirts and shorts.

As soon as I stepped foot off the plane and was welcomed by the bitter cold and a torrential downpour, I realised my mistake. At the hostel, I sought confirmation that this was just a blip on an otherwise unending summer’s day. These hopes were unequivocally dashed.

I was prepared to be cold and miserable for the entirety of my stay, warming myself with self-righteous indignation not to purchase a single extra item of clothing.

At breakfast the following morning, after detailing my plight, a kind Australian dude offered me his hoody. Such an act of altruism couldn’t help but make you feel very positive about your fellow man. Although, perhaps such kindness comes easier to those helping themselves to a healthy measure of vodka with their breakfast OJ.

Unfortunately, there was no good karma in store for my considerate benefactor, he was unceremoniously ejected from the hostel shortly after his charitable act. Less to do with alcohol issues and more to do with being an anti-social menace. I wasn’t privy to the details, but I had heard him belittling a crying baby; humans are full of contradictions!

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At the tournament I found myself waiting for my bracket cloaked in a rash guard, two t-shirts, the hoody, and my kimono. I was still freezing.

It appeared that I was the only idiot who was unaware of Curitiba’s Arctic-esque conditions; fellow competitors could be seen sporting hats, gloves and scarves, others huddled together under blankets to escape the onset of hypothermia.

Nevertheless, it was an awesome day on the mats. I had three matches, a comfortable points win in my first, a rear naked choke in the second and a closely fought final where I was given the nod via a referee’s decision.

I was overjoyed with the result after what had been a rather auspicious training camp in preparation for the tournament; traveling for a month with minimal time on the mats, and a neck injury which had prevented me from doing much rolling. In addition to a stomach bug the previous week which had kept me from training on pain of soiling myself.

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As I changed my clothes to leave, I discovered that my coconut water had leaked in my bag, consequently every item of clothing was thoroughly soaked. The fact that I was wet through, smelled of stale coconut, it was still pouring in rain and the temperature had dropped didn’t concern me with a gold medal warming up my sky rocket.

Back to the mats the following day for the no-gi, it had somehow become even colder. You know when the referee has a jacket under his shirt and his breath was clearly visible that it was too cold to be rocking nothing but shorts and a rash guard. Due to the temperature, the mats had transformed themselves into slabs of concrete which were perfect for tearing chunks of skin off feet and elbows.

I had another three matches but fell short of the previous day’s accomplishment. My adversary from yesterday’s final was able to exact his revenge with a 4-0 victory after taking my back. Even the fateful mistake of crossing his legs would not dissuade him from victory as he let his foot pop after I applied maximum pressure. He hopped his way to the podium to collect his gold and I had to settle for silver.

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To my complete shock, the sun came out the next morning which gave me a chance to explore Curitiba. The main talking point about the city seemed to be, just how good its transport system was, apparently it was the envy of the world; a number of other countries (my sources varied on a figure) had emulated it exactly. In fairness, it was extremely efficient; unlike Rio, the bus drivers didn’t display any obvious genocidal tendencies.

During my aimless wander around the city, I witnessed a very large man being arrested. Struggling police officers had forced him onto the ground, one was kneeling on his head, two others stood by with guns at the ready, a fourth officer put him in handcuffs. The dude was not making their job easy, he was thrashing around, screaming and trying to stand up, basically the exact opposite of how I would react if a Brazilian policeman had a gun pointed at my dome.

I wasn’t aware, but it must have been crowd participation day. As the situation unfolded, a random member of the public appeared from the large group of onlookers and started kicking ass. I’m not being facetious; he was literally aiming kicks into the handcuffed man’s behind. I am assuming this was a misplaced effort to aid the police. What was wild, the police just stood by and let the good Samaritan do his thing.

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Manaus

My time in Curitiba was perfectly contrasted by a visit to Manaus, a city in the Northwest of Brazil in the heart of the Amazonas. I had visited the previous year to compete, yet, somehow in the eschewing twelve months, I had forgotten just how humid it was. In the sweltering humidity of the city one doesn’t even have to move in order to sweat. Just sitting down reading would result in a flow of precipitation cascading through your fingers.

Matters are not helped by the presence of open sewers throughout the city, the intense heat magnified the overpowering stench of faeces.

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I was back to compete at the IBJJF Manaus Open. Having won gold in both the gi and no-gi last year, I was there for nothing less than a repeat.

From the offset, I was lucky to even win my first match in the gi. I fell prey to a kimura – but as my shoulder was about to explode, my opponent thankfully gave up on it, from there, I was able to sweep and pass for the victory.

In the final after a quick sweep to take the top position, I found myself in a wrist-lock out of nowhere. As a proponent of this nefarious hold, the audacity of it being applied led to my refusal to capitulate until my tendons began to tear. I had to suppress the urge to scream ‘FUCK’ at the top of my lungs.

The silver medal seemed largely irrelevant, I had just been wrist-locked in front of hundreds of people; the humiliation of it, I wanted to cry. My gracious opponent sensing my distress even apologized for his beautiful application of this universally maligned submission.

While my performance was far better in the no-gi, it led to the same result, the acquisition of a silver medal. Losing out again to my new friend, Wilson in what was probably my favorite competitive match.

In the final, I pulled guard and was nearly passed from the offset, surviving a near back-take and arm-bar attempt. I rallied and we went sweep for sweep, I had a number of near back-takes and a close call with a gogoplata attempt. The match ended 2-2 on points and 2-2 on advantages. I believed, that I had done enough to win, but it was not to be and Wilson was awarded the decision.

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I had a litany of complaints due to what I felt was discriminatory refereeing throughout the day,  the arbitrary awarding of advantages to my opponents, I would do the same and receive nothing. There certainly isn’t any gringo-privilege in the Amazon. However, it is more important to lament my own performance which for the most part sucked. I had come with the goal of double gold, even with two silvers I left Manaus feeling severe disappointment. Although, I couldn’t have lost to a nicer dude.

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Jiu-Jitsu & Guns: A Very Rio Homecoming

I arrived back in Rio for another extended stay in my home away from home. Rocking my sleep deprivation like a badge of honour, I skipped off the plane at 4:30 A.M. on an already humid Saturday morning. Even at that hour there was Olympic based craziness going on; cats in team tracksuits with bemused looks on their faces being herded in different directions by tirelessly cheerful Olympic staff, sporting a somewhat bizarre combo of yellow shirts with beige pants.

My plan after making my way to Ipanema was to traverse the big-ass hill into Cantagalo’s favela community, spend some time with my adopted Brazilian family, before making it out to the open-mat at Filipe Costa’s academy at 10 A.M. After nearly three weeks off the mats, I was fiending to strangle fellow human beings.

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However, upon my arrival at the fam’s abode, my stomach was lovingly filled with a ‘breakfast’ of bread, cheese and cake, whilst I regaled my adventures up to that point in incomprehensible Portuguese. That was me done. I could only dream of Jiu-Jitsu; my body decided a visit to snooze-town was of utmost priority.

This homecoming was all types of awesome. It was the third year that I have been staying with Selme, her daughter Anna Paula; and Anna’s two sons, Gabriel and young Vinicious. I was reminded just how privileged I was, I had acquired a second family, fortunately, one less dysfunctional than my own.

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Above all, the highlight of my return was kicking it with my little brother and partner in crime, seventeen-year-old, Gabriel. He was my main training partner on the mats, as well as off the mats where we indulge in marathon sessions of Dragon Ball Z and the consumption of inhuman amounts of acai.

Post-nap, my afternoon was occupied by a family birthday party for Gabriel’s aunt, Renata. The bulk of my time was spent attempting to explain why I wasn’t eating any meat, which in Brazil is akin to suffering from a complete psychological breakdown. I did not possess the linguistic skill to explain that I’d had a vision under the influence of ayahuasca, which convinced me of our oneness with all the creatures of the Earth. Thus I had made an immediate decision to stop the consumption of animal carcasses. What I was able to say was, ‘because I like animals’. Consequently, and justifiably, I became the butt of everyone’s joke.

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Monday brought my first day back on the mats after nearly three weeks estranged from my love. This was the longest time we’d spent apart in seven years, I was under no false illusions that there could be a failure at performing to my usual standards.

During the evening training at the FT Academy battle lines were drawn and cats slap hands and go to war. International black belt competitor, Switzerland’s own Thomas Oyarzún, was training at the academy. He was readying himself for the Masters Worlds after foregoing the 2016 competitive season to raise money for Terere’s charity, Terere Kids Project. Having watched the dude compete for years now, it was awesome getting to train together. My first roll meant a full seven minutes fighting to maintain my consciousness.

My second roll was with Mestre Tererê himself, which is still a magical experience no matter how many times we share the mat; as we slapped hands that Christmas morning excitement was visible on my face for all to see. After that, I had exhausted what little I had in the tank, but there would be no respite for me.

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Returning this year, the mats at the academy have become a scary place, there was no easy rounds. Case in point as training continued, I was paired with one of the young dudes from the project, fourteen-year-old orange belt, Leo “Bebezao” Bandeira. I immediately discovered that he possessed a passing game akin to a young Rodolfo. In the interest of honesty, this young Spartan was delivering me a beat-down of seismic proportions. He performed blitzkrieg and my guard crumbled. To survive this onslaught, I am not too ashamed to admit; I was forced to foot-lock him. Attacking the feet is something that is still considered untoward here, and foot-locking a child is deemed a cardinal sin, I was condemned to Jiu-Jitsu hellfire! 13879309_1153238384739295_4525935531208867353_n

Walking back through the favela after that evening’s session, Gabriel and myself encountered two young gentlemen; one held something to my chest. Due to the darkness I immediately arrived at the conclusion that it was a knife. I reacted accordingly and jumped back, unfortunately letting out a rather high pitched yelp. Gabriel hastily informed me it was actually one of the academy’s young students wanting to shake my hand. In my defence it was pitch black, nevertheless it was rather humiliating!

I actually ended up teaching the following morning due to Professor Fabricio suffering a knee injury, this was an amazing experience, delivering a session at my hero’s academy. Well, until disaster struck.

During positional sparring, I inverted to escape a back-take. As all my weight was on my neck, my partner chose that moment to jump on top of me. The resulting situation was two dudes on one neck. The multiple popping noises alerted me to the fact that something was awry. One full day of training and I was hurt, with my birthday the next day. An inability to train wasn’t exactly the present that I had been looking for!

As a result of the Olympics, there was a much diminished police presence in the favela. There was only one occasion during the week that I had a gun pointed at me – by the police anyway. As officers rolled past in their squad car, it was impossible not to notice the long barrel of some godforsaken weapon protruding ominously out of the window in my direction. This was unsettling no matter how many times it occurred, a device of death in the hands of cats you wouldn’t trust to look after a sandwich.

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Due to this lack of police, there were young guys brazenly strolling around with their own weaponry out. On my way to training one evening, three young dudes casually rolled past, each armed with a pistol, with equally menacing expressions on their mugs.

A couple of days later, I was walking back up through the favela in the middle of the day. I was confronted by a teenager with a pistol in hand. This guy could have been no older than sixteen. My issue with this chance meeting was, the aforementioned pistol was pointed directly at me; he demanded to know exactly what I was doing there.

In fairness, he was one of the least threatening individuals you could hope to meet (minus the gun!) so the situation wasn’t as intimidating as it might sound. When I explained to him that I lived in the community, he became cordial, even throwing me a ‘valeu’ or two at me (thanking me) before sending me on my merry way. Nevertheless, I was somewhat relieved that he asked me a question that I knew how to respond to – things might not have ended so amicably otherwise!

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Friday night’s training (well I should say, me watching Friday night’s training) brought a measure of hilarity to my otherwise glum, Jiu-Jitsu repressed mood. I watched two large black belts, one over a hundred kilos and the other one dangerously close to the same figure, cajole one another as they rolled with a fifteen-year-old green belt, Jhonathan ‘Moicano’ Marques. Whilst Moicano was berimboloing and climbing on the back of one of them, the other would be taunting from the sidelines, providing a running commentary of the action. Although, extracting some measure of revenge, I watched said black belt attempt to gogoplata the young whizz-kid with his own leg, in what was one of the weirdest positions I have ever seen. Sometimes flexibility can work against you!

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